I’ve spent a lot of time at sports stadiums. I was a boy when Manawatu held the Ranfurly Shield and remember the excitement of the street parades down Broadway Ave in Palmerston North. As a young adult I watched games at Athletic Park and have enjoyed the festival atmosphere of the Rugby Sevens at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
I’ve watched the ABs trash Australia from the terraces in Christchurch. I’ve tried to understand Aussie Rules at the MCG and watched New Zealand win cricket at the SCG. I recently walked through the strange world of professional cricket at the home of the Kolkata Knight Riders in India, and I live walking distance from North Harbour Stadium, where I’ve watched the All Whites and various rugby games.
I greatly enjoy the atmosphere of live sport and regularly find myself in conversation with people around me, particularly those who seem to be more qualified than the referees to interpret the game at hand. And as a chaplain who prays with a professional sports team before their games I have an intriguing opportunity to mix my theology into their game plan.
Overriding all of this, there seems to be a sense that through sport the intention of the early Christians in Acts 2 is played out – community, in all its diversity. And whether you like it or not, New Zealand is a country obsessed with sport, often described as one of our “gods.”
In six months’ time one of the world’s biggest sporting tournaments starts in our own back yard, giving us one of the most significant opportunities to serve our community that we’ll ever see. God will be at the Rugby World Cup – will we be ready?
At Windsor Park we used the FIFA Football World Cup as an opportunity to serve our community, and several hundred people gathered in the middle of the night to watch New Zealand become the only unbeaten team at the tournament.
We plan to show every RWC game live on our big screens, along with other activities to serve our community, be a community, and provide the opportunity to mix our theology and faith with life.
So what’s your church planning for RWC? Check out the Engage website – www.engagerwc.com – and register your details to stay informed of ideas. It would also be interesting to hear from other churches about how you’re going to use this opportunity to serve your community.
• Grant Harris is the Senior Pastor of Windsor Park Baptist Church in Auckland, advisor to the All Blacks (if they could hear him through his TV), avid sportsman and Chaplain to the NZ Breakers Basketball Team.